Dear 2020,

We need to break up. I know you’ve probably been expecting this ever since Christmas, when I stopped returning your texts and emails. Maybe you realized I’d blocked your number. I want to explain why I haven’t reached out—and why I won’t be.

I met someone new. I was trying to describe our relationship to him, and it suddenly struck me that I was doing it all wrong, starting with the ending, forgetting everything that came before and all of the in-between that held us together, at least for a while.

Remember that New Year’s Eve party my ex threw last year? I was surprised he invited me; we’d only just broken up. He’d never mentioned that you worked together. Maybe he knew I’d lose interest in him the moment I saw you.

We danced together in that crowded living room, everyone laughing and spilling their drinks. We snuck out onto the balcony right before the ball dropped and clinked our glasses. Someone put on Auld Lang Syne, and when you kissed me, the night let out a great sigh. 

As the magic of midnight unspooled and someone broke a glass inside, I thought I felt in your quiet something ominous. I never imagined that party would be our last, or that we’d lose touch with most of those friends before we’d run our love to its inevitable end.

It’s easy to blame what happened in March for everything that would follow. At first we banded together. We chalked “hang in there” on the sidewalks and swapped our hard pants for athleisure. We started meditating, kept a gratitude journal, made color-coded homeschool schedules. I started a podcast called Shelter in Place to help me find metaphorical shelter in a time when I was stuck in my own physical place. I thought it would be a small project, that all of this would be over in a few weeks. 

And then one morning in May we woke up to a different world–or rather, it was the same world, but its shiny layer had been peeled back to reveal the decay underneath. We took to the streets, a new kind of rallying. Our protests were layered; we didn’t just want things to be different–we wanted history to be different. Some days we wished we could erase ourselves from the story. 

I had not anticipated how my daily podcast would force me to take a long hard look at myself. There was no hiding from the death and destruction all around me—or inside me. I still wrote episodes six days a week, but now I sought out other voices and stayed as quiet as I could. Some days I wanted to stop talking altogether. 

I called friends and had awkward conversations. Even the trying marked a stark division. My friends were sad and discouraged and angry–but they were not surprised. For every person in America who was finally waking up, others slumbered on, lost in dreams of a world that had never been. Meanwhile my friends kept the midnight watch; they’d been wide-eyed and overtired all their lives.

Now my nights were restless, with twitchy legs and patchwork dreams. Sometimes I’d get up in the middle of the night and do the work I hadn’t been able to finish during the day, when I was officiating kid fights and administrating Zoom schedules. It was unmanageable, but there seemed to be no other option. It was surprising how we could all go on living half-dead.

I kept writing and recording, fighting my instinct to shut down. Each day was a refrain of losing hope and finding it, losing it and finding it again. They were not sequential events, but rather parallel tracks. There was the hope and the loss, the loss and the hope, always there together. Optimism was no longer a simple thing. 

Summer came. For months I’d held a secret hope that we could get the old life back. I even thought about calling my ex. But now the kids would not be going back to school. The coming year stretched out like a long impenetrable fog. 

And then one day the fog wasn’t fog, but yellow smoke blanketing our skies. The sun turned red. The air smelled of burning plastic. Ash fell like dirty snowflakes. We formed a new faith in the apocalypse. We weren’t suicidal, just so very tired of living. 

The smoke cleared for a few hours and I sat on the back porch crying, wanting and not wanting you to find me. When you finally did, you surprised me by agreeing that we were not okay. We needed to do something drastic. For once I didn’t micromanage you. I let you take me wherever you thought we should go. We set out on a month-long road trip across the country, not stopping until we reached family on the opposite coast. We let go of our shelter, of our place that felt like home. 

It’s been four months since you took me to Massachusetts. The kids are doing better with grandma overseeing school. I’m lonely sometimes, but I’m okay. I still don’t know when we’re going home. 

I tried not to think about you on New Year’s Eve this year. There were no parties. I didn’t see midnight this time around. The kids and I sang Auld Lang Syne at 8 p.m. and I finally taught them what it means. It begins with a question: is it right to forget days gone by? 

Remember that terrible fight we had in November, when you screamed questions I couldn’t answer? 

Would I erase you from my life if I could? Some days I think yes. You broke me again and again. 

But as much as I want to hate you, I can’t. You stole so much—but you also gave me a life I hadn’t known I’d needed. You made me uncomfortable—but in the process I learned to live with less. I learned from you that it’s okay to ask for help, that relationships take work, that the best things in life usually aren’t easy. That process of crumbling all of my previous self-sufficiency and–I’ll admit it, selfishness–has revealed something quite unexpected: it’s no easy answer or silver lining; it’s insecure, and not fully-formed. It’s fragile, but solid at its core. It’s small, but it could grow. 

What you gave me, dear 2020, is hope. It’s far more expansive than I’d imagined; it doesn’t require us to agree before we can care for each other. It laments the past and casts a vision for the future. It can say I’m sorry; it can learn to forgive. It’s got joy and pain tangled around and inside it. It doesn’t mind the contradiction.

This person I’ve met is nothing like you. He says exactly what he means. His expectations are low. The kids are still getting to know him. I am, too. But for as many times as I’ve wished this year away, I won’t forget you, dear 2020, whom I have loved and hated. It’s a cup of kindness I raise to you tonight, because you taught me that, too. 

Thank you,

Laura

This post was an excerpt from an episode of Shelter in Place podcast. Listen below or visit shelterinplacepodcast.info to read the full transcript.

Does COVID-19 Kill Compassion?

Most likely COVID-19 does not kill compassion. Probably four years of proactive modeling of toxic masculinity did kill some compassion. If it didn’t affect negatively, recognize that for many the toxic fallout from the Trump years is akin to PTSD, ravaging hearts, minds and spirits from coast to coast. In fact, few regular people could thrive under the conditions characterized by instability, lies, bullying and unpredictable rage—all the traits of David Koresh and other cult leaders used to control their followers. Now it’s not fair to blame the victims, but it is our responsibility to heal ourselves now that the tyrant is gone. In other words, time to relocate our moral compasses.

For me and many people, most of 2020 but the especially the last few months of the year and January 2021 have been traumatic and painful. The constant racial stress people of color have experienced combined with totally ineffectual response to the pandemic has led to distress and many socioeconomic problems. Compound that with sickness, food insecurity and isolation, and it’s clear that we need to reconnect with ourselves so we can help others.

Here are some steps you can take to heal society and yourself from the moral depravity of the last four years:

  1. Acknowledge the global pandemic and the toll on everyone’s lives in every country in the world. Accept that truth. It’s horrible. If you can help in some small way, you can be being to alleviate any feelings of helplessness and pain.
  2. Act in your community to protect your family and neighbors from casual COVID-19 spread:
    1. Wear a mask
    1. Distance from others wearing a mask
    1. Respect the six-feet rule around public ingress and egress paths; public spaces are for everyone.
  3. Take time out: Stay home with your family and cool off from social media.
    1. Watch a Disney movie, and turn off the news.
    1. Set up a family jigsaw puzzle table for the family.
    1. Have a weekly family game night after dinner.
  4. Work to reconcile with those you may have hurt. Start by toning down the volume even if you’re upset, a reprieve may bring a new perspective in the morning. Us the cool-down time for discernment. You may need to end some relationships that are unhealthy and cause distress.
  5. Engage in social activism to repair the damage. People are dying. Ask how you can help if you have extra resources, food and clothes. This is a global crisis. Many people need help in the US and abroad. Giving feels good. It also heals.

If you love me, hold me accountable. If you love yourself, be willing to be held accountable for your words and deeds. Accountability requires communication, compassion and desire for wholeness. We have a chance to bring about a new era in our society, one that demonstrates liberty and justice for all. Start with preventing the spread of COVID-19 and embracing the compassion that sees us all as humans worthy of life.

Edissa accessorizes a mask when she leaves the house to protect her family and community from COVID-19. She’s cool like that!

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A Better Dream

2021 has been such as been such an eventful year already. Who would have thought that Wednesdays could provide us with so much history and terror? Two weeks ago, on Wednesday January 6, 2021, I was on the road with my boyfriend for a celebratory staycation in the city of Brotherly Love (Philadelphia, PA), when he got a call about white protestors marching to The Capitol. We got a play by play of how they proceeded to take it by storm under the guise of a “revolution”. Mind blowing right? What was even crazier was that we were scheduled to go Washington D.C. two days following this protest. Thankfully, our trip went well and the only thing we suffered from was disappointment because we were unable to see the sights while everything was locked with a vigilance that should have been in place two days prior. I digress… This Wednesday, January 20, 2021, however, was full of moments that will be ingrained in my mind for years to come.

I watched my Instagram feed provide gifs and stills of Trump’s underwhelming departure, streamed the inauguration of our new President Joe Biden live from YouTube, and I celebrated the birthday of a friend via FaceTime (Thank God for technology). It was a truly glorious day! Big moments aside, what I loved the most, were the little things, the moments within moments. Within the presidential inauguration, I witnessed three things: 1. The unbotheredness of Bernie Sanders, which has become a meme unto itself, 2. The array of color amongst the women present, and 3. the moment where I was gripped by the very presence and words of Harvard alum Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first African American youth poet laureate. It was these three things that highlighted the dream of a promising future for America.

Unbothered Bernie

There aren’t too many pictures, I feel, that represent my mood for 2021 so concisely. The year came in, ignored my “Dear 2021…” post, and began to wreak havoc in ways that myself and other members of the African American population knew it could. I can assure you that on Wednesday January 6, 2021, most of us sat in our respective homes and watched the news with the exact face Bernie has in the picture below. There may have been exclamations of shock and reproach, but I’m sure there was one person in the room who sat back and said something along lines of, ” That’s some white privilege” and “That’s none of my concern” because they stopped peaceful BLM (Black Lives Matter) protests with mace and tear gas, but allowed a storming of The Capital for reasons I believe are all too obvious… They were White. Anywho! Let this Bernie meme be our mood all 2021: Prepared and unbothered. May our masks be raised high, and our stress levels low.

Monochrome!

Do you see what I see? I see a moment from “The Wiz” where all the people danced around the television for the Wizard. The comparison is uncanny! It was glamorous, vibrant, and monochromatic. I LIVE for a monochromatic moment! There is such a strength, stability, and confidence that comes with wearing monochrome that I am certain that this fashion choice was the right one. It spoke loud and clear of the vibrancy that lies ahead for this nation. Watching all these fabulous women, I felt like it was a representation of the people waking up from a dead sleep under the #45th administration. It was like they woke up and decided to put on their “Sunday’s best”. I loved every moment of it.

The Hill We Climb

Amanda Gormon, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, is a Los Angeles native whose words have won her invitations to the Obama White House and to perform for Lin-Manuel Miranda, Al Gore, Secretary Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and others. She also has work available for purchase, “Change Sings” and poetry collection “The Hill We Climb”, both being released by Penguin Random House this September. In addition to all these accolades, she is stunning! Her gorgeous melanin, complimented by her bright yellow trench immediately grabbed my attention as as she read her piece, “The Hill We Climb“. It reminded me of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that inspired the nation, but there are so many unknown quotes from him that still resonate.

“But ever since the Founding Fathers of our nation dreamed this dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself.”

“The American Dream”, Martin Luther King Jr. , July 4, 1965

With the momentous sightings of Wednesday January 20, 2021, a palindrome mind you, I feel so hopeful. Hopeful that our fear-driven society could become one of love and peace and justice. Things have been so disjointed towards minority groups in this country since its conception that it will take time to maneuver and eradicate some of these things. People have been avoiding the darkness of this country for so long that they forgot it existed and now is the time to shed some light on it. The most powerful words uttered by Amanda in her piece pertain to light.

“There is always light is only we are brave enough to see it. If only we are brave enough to be it.”

“THE HILL WE CLIMB”, AMANDA GORMAN, JANUARY 20, 2021

If we can be the light that we seek, maybe the nights won’t be as dark, and if we remind ourselves of Joe’s quote from The Bible in his inauguration speech, “Joy comes in the morning” we can spread hope and love (light) instead of fear and hatred (darkness). Dr. King’s words and his life’s work may not have been fully realized in his time on Earth, but I believe we can achieve that dream in this new day and age. You’ve made it to the weekend, so have an amazing Friday my loves!

Five Steps to Farming With Your Fork

We are living in times of created scarcity.

Each reveal spots our vulnerability.

Food is essential – and we all know why.

Food can be used as a weapon – and we understand how.

Food is a tool to awaken us.

Food activates power.

Food is a gift that is shareable.

– Dovanna Dean

Are you looking to start a garden from scratch, re-thinking your current garden, or realizing you need a long term plan to keep food on the table and in your pantry?

Farming with your fork is creating a demand with each bite for the crops and livestock we want on our table but most important HOW they are raised.  It’s a powerful and simple action that bonds families and communities and solidifies self-reliance.  Farming with your fork also becomes part of your self-care regiment.  I’m applying these actions into my daily “to-do chores” and it has become a lifestyle. By sharing these steps my goal is to inspire you and yours to become activated at your own rhythm.

Let’s begin this beautiful journey.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza

EXPLORING THE 5 STEPS OF FARMING WITH YOUR FORK

1. IDENTIFY YOUR GOALS FOR YOUR SPACE.

Create your site plan to get clarity about what you need from your space.  Ask questions like do you want to compost? Should you invest in an irrigation system?  How can you extend your growing season? Is it best for you to start a garden in containers or in beds? Do you have space to store the bounty of your harvest?

Asking questions provides direction and focuses your energies towards reaching your gardening goals.

2. COLLABORATE.

Look around… You may be surprised at the under used spaces you have access to use. Talk to family, neighbors, and community groups who may have unused spaces along with resources and develop partnerships. Work out mutually beneficial relationships. Look into tool sharing collectives, seed saving groups, and start reading to expand your knowledge and build your confidence… I enjoy reading seed catalogs because seed companies want you to thrive so they offer an abundance of tips and resources.

With more space there is no limit to what you can nurture and learn to grow.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza
3. CHOOSE YOUR CROPS & LEAVE NO SPACE EMPTY YEAR ROUND.

Resist the urge to start a massive amount of seeds at one time. Instead get on a schedule to start seeds every two weeks for a staggered harvest. Most important is to always plant in season – do not start tomatoes at the end of summer and expect successful growth as the weather gets cold. If plants are started out of season much of their energy is used up working to combat unseasonable weather like cold, heat, rain, or drought. The plants are left with less energy for balanced growth and can become prone to diseases and insect attacks. There are many products and tips to extend your growing season. Grow a vast variety of veggies and herbs. Plant fruit trees and berry bushes. Grow all kinds of potatoes. Try growing grain crops like amaranth and beans you can dry and eat past the harvest.

This strategy ensures you are eating garden fresh year round.

Photo credit: Krista Sherer
4. REACH OUT TO LOCAL FARMERS, RANCHERS, AND FOOD PRODUCERS.

While you are setting up your garden and realizing your “green thumb” support the work of small scale farmers, ranchers, and food producers.

Next time you get to a farmers market start collecting names and numbers and keep connected. Also ask if they need help harvesting or planting in exchange for yummy farm grown goods.  Another priceless bonus from this action is that you get to take a day trip with the family and experience farm life. 

Keep in contact with small scale/local food producers like bakers, cheese makers, bee keepers, prepared foods, etc. In the event farmers markets are stopped you maintain a line of communications and you keep their passion of producing local foods alive.

Supporting the works and efforts of these small businesses creates a strong demand for their goods.

5. START A BUYERS CLUB WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. 

In a buyers club, you work as a group to share the expenses of bulk items and yield buying power for good prices. Being part of a buyers club takes organization and a commitment of your time. In one buyers club I was a part of, we rotated responsibilities to give everyone the opportunity to know all the jobs associated with running the club. To avoid being charged delivery fees we worked out meeting the delivery truck at one of its super market stops.  To make it extra fun we had pot lucks on delivery days so we could try new items. This was a great opportunity to experiment with new ingredients before buying.

Forming a buyers club puts you in direct contact with suppliers and enables you to be an active participant in the supply chain. You become a link in the system.

Photo Credit: Kim Mendoza

5 steps to farming with your fork becomes a starting point towards food security and solidifying access to healthy foods. It does take work and collaboration.

Be creative and do not give up. You are on the path to farming with your fork!

Dovanna Dean is a practitioner of Permaculture. She is also a lover of animals, plants, house music.

Level Up on Self-Care with Intentionality

It’s definitely time to ratchet up self-care now that we know COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon. Sigh! As much as it breaks my heart to know we have to go through almost another year of seclusion, I’m grateful for the basic habits that keep us well. Let’s face it, it’s exhausting to not go out, see friends or even live without fear. It’s on us to give ourselves the care we need to thrive in isolation. Rituals are the anchors of life; they’re why so many of us don’t want to change, and why we’re hurting without them. People can’t even stop themselves from going to the gym, because of the social rewards of that ritual. But we don’t have go without the people and things we love!

Bath time preparation includes music, candles and prayer.

One ritual I especially miss is going to the spa once a month. I’ve been doing this for years as a way of getting regular relaxation, fasting and a blessed massage–remember those? As I’m not able, nor do I want to go to a communal spa right now, it doesn’t mean I can live without that dedicated sacred time. I schedule time to have a weekly bath, do my hair, meditate and shave my legs. Recently, I found my Neti Pot in the back of drawer and was delighted to use it to clear my sinuses, which get clogged in winter; now the Neti Pot is back in rotation as part of my regular bath and spa ritual. Bath time is a precious gift of love for my family so I can bring my best, strongest and happiest self to our relationship. This ritual also sets a powerful example for friends and family to make self-care a priority.

Sea salt for the Neti Pot and a delicious candle.

Most of us function optimally when we’re in community—connected to friends who know and love us as we are. That’s the reason so many folks are having a difficult time adjusting to the loss of prayer and faith community. Here’s what I know: Even without church, you can make time for prayer individually and collectively. Hopefully by now, most churches have adapted to online presence or some outdoor community space. I schedule regular phone calls with my closest friends, many of whom live in distant places. Facetime calls and Zoom classes and groups keep my mirror neurons sharp. It’s really up to me to connect when I have the opportunity.

Emotional intelligence functions in many ways, not just during physical proximity. You can be a jerk over email, text, Facebook or Zoom as easily as you can be kind and generous in the same platforms. You choose how you show up.

My girlfriend and I pray over FT and set our intentions for the week ahead.

What’s more, the gaps in connection owing to COVID19 means that even casual contact with strangers is highly risky behavior. And yet, I need to see my brother’s face to know that his distress over the January 6 Insurrection is a force I counter with my compassion and humor. I want to see his mirror neurons fire, and see his face brighten into a smile because he’s been heard and appreciated. Likewise, new virtual friends and teachers need physical and verbal affirmation to know that instruction is on point and the community is well. I understand that too much isolation only causes problems for everyone, and although I’m an introvert who can happily go long stretches without social contact, I show up on virtual platforms as a gift of my presence to my community. By showing up for quality contact that demonstrates lovingkindness, good will and generosity of spirit, I help make sure that many isolated people in my community can thrive. Anything less than that represents a scarcity of resources or lack of the necessary traits to give to others. I am able to give for those experiencing deficit because I have enough resources and emotional intelligence to give from my surplus reserves. If and when I withdraw, it’s an intentional act of self-preservation, like staying home to keep my immediate family members, including myself, safe from Covid19.

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Welcome to the Party

This post is an excerpt from Season 2, episode 16 of Shelter in Place Podcast: Welcome to the Party.

I’ve always loved a good party. 

It’s been a long time since I went to a party, and even longer since I had a reason to throw one. 

This past week was Shelter in Place’s official launch date with Hurrdat Media, something that has been in the works for nearly eight months. After working mostly alone for most of the past year, we’re growing. We hope this partnership will expand our community. Still, it didn’t feel right to throw ourselves a party. It’s a difficult time for our nation. It’s been a hard year for many of us personally, too.

A family member recently asked me what my word was for 2021. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I couldn’t get past 2020. My word for that year was ambivalent. I can’t remember a time in my life when I felt so intensely the struggle between gratitude and despair. Some days I was full of hope and a sense of abundance; other days I moved through a fog of depression.

Shelter in Place began with the pandemic when my life was falling apart. Even on that first day I knew I had a decision to make: would I reach out or shut down? I decided to take one small step and start a daily podcast that I thought would just last a few weeks. After decades of being paralyzed by perfectionism, I’d let good enough be good enough. I had no idea that I was about to embark on the adventure of my life. 

Ten months and 116 episodes later, almost everything has changed. I thought I was doing creativity as catharsis in those early days of the pandemic, but it turns out I was rewriting life. What began as my “little project” has launched us across the country, changed my vocation as well as my husband’s, and sparked an apprenticeship program where we’re passing along what we’ve learned to seven remarkable young women. No one is more surprised than me that we are where we are now. 

This is not to say we’ve arrived. We have a long way to go before anyone would accuse us of being a financial success. Our move across the country was prompted at least in part by the very real urgency of needing a lower cost of living. There are still many days that feel very hard. Most days, we are very, very tired.

But if this past year has taught me anything, it’s that the best medicine for despair is serving and celebrating others–that when I feel isolated and lonely, I don’t have to reach far to remember that I’m not alone. When our country’s political division feels hopeless, I remember all of the incredible conversations I’ve had with people on both sides of the aisle. Those conversations have given me vision for what’s possible.

So this past week, we decided that we’d throw a party not for ourselves, but for every person who has given us something to be grateful for this past year: the more then 60 artists, activists, and thinkers who have shared their work and lives with us, the listeners who left us reviews and become patrons to help us continue, and all of the people we hope will find us this year and receive the podcast as the gift it’s designed to be.

For obvious reasons, we can’t all be together right now. We can’t congregate around a snack table, pile onto the dance floor, or clink glasses of champagne. But that’s why we created Shelter in Place in the first place–to build a virtual shelter where we can laugh, cry, commiserate, and dream; where we can better understand our differences and share the good things that are still happening; where we can create a space where we all feel at home.

We’ve opened our doors to you because you helped us build this house. Without you, I never would have had the courage to take this leap into the unknown. I certainly wouldn’t still be making episodes. We want each and every one of our listeners, supporters, guests, and friends to know just how grateful we are. We hope that as you listen, you feel celebrated and blessed. So come inside, the party has just started.

How to Mend Miscommunication

Have you ever walked away from a conversation understanding one thing, but found out later on that the whole thing was misconstrued? I have multiple times and I’m here to tell you that even though the feeling of discomfort doesn’t completely go away, you can grow from each experience. There are so many layers when diving in the well of miscommunication and it can seem overwhelming. One misspoken word can be the end of a beautiful relationship or business partnership. Mending those broken relationships and exploring conversational rifts are intentional work that takes time, but here are a few steps to get you started.

Open Your Heart and Mind

When addressing miscommunication, you have to remember that each individual is coming into the conversation with their own perspective and a set of points that they want to get across. It’s not easy to be the bigger person, but if the relationship is of value to you, it would be in your best interest to be the bigger person and open your mind to their perspective and calm your heart when you hear their frustration.

As humans, we come into this world with these intense emotions that most of us have learned to regulate as we’ve gotten older. These regulated emotions are what keep us from flying off the handle at a moment’s notice or screaming obscenities at our neighbors for letting their dogs poop freely in our yard for the upteenth time this month. We have to remember that empathy is a necessity, no matter what, so listen intently to their concerns without the overwhelming desire to respond. Digest their words, mull it over, and respond accordingly.

Ask Questions

There have been times in my life where I didn’t ask enough questions or the right questions. Who am I kidding? There are days where I still don’t, but I now have a better frame of reference for when and how to ask questions. In my youth, when I would take trips to the doctor, I never inquired further about things pertaining to my body because I was of the mindset that they had already told me everything I needed to know. I thought, “They’re the doctor, they know what’s best. Case closed”. I saw no reason to press the matter further. In high school, I had moments where I was given an assignment where upon first review, things seemed straightforward, but upon further review, I found that all the requirements weren’t clear and I would struggle to complete the assignment that night. My mom would then ask me why I hadn’t asked more questions, and my answer would always be that I didn’t know I needed to ask more questions. I had walked out of the classroom thinking I had all the understanding of the subject that I needed, which time and further analysis proved false. It is within these crucial lessons that I’ve gained the understanding that sometimes, we are so uninformed on a topic that we don’t know what questions we should be asking. If you find yourself on the receiving end of miscommunication, meaning that your words were misconstrued, please practice empathy and remember that you too desire patience and understanding where proper communication is involved.

Respect One Another

Respect is a two-way street. It is also a form of currency. When I enter into a conversation with someone, I am exchanging my words, ideas, beliefs, and energy. The person I am speaking to is doing the same. Issues tend to develop quicker when the two individuals are on different frequencies of conversation. My ideals may not align with theirs and vice versa. For example, let’s say I am talking to a friend about getting some ice cream. I tell them I want chocolate and they say, “Yuck! Vanilla for me”. I could respond one of two ways: 1. Understand that they are expressing their opinion or 2. Take it as a personal attack and become defensive. Personally, I would inquire about why they don’t like chocolate, which allows me to walk away with a better understanding of them as a whole.

When we asks questions with respect and seek to understand one another, people tend to respond better and will be more likely to remain open in their responses. These open responses aid in getting you closer to desirable resolutions. Just the other day, I found myself in a misunderstanding. I found myself a bit flustered because I didn’t see where the miscommunication was. All I knew was that we disagreed on a matter and I wanted it resolved. I also knew that I didn’t want to respond impulsively, which could potentially ruin a great relationship. Thus, I waited, formulated a proper response that allowed me to get my point across while leaving room for an open conversation. Thankfully, the issue was resolved smoothly because I understood the importance of hearing the other person’s perspective and reevaluating it with my own. By doing this, we were both able to identify the breakdown in communication and were able to grow and move forward amicably. I have not always been as successful in my mending endeavors, but I hope to spread hope and share my experiences with the hopes of inspiring you to mend valuable relationships with those three steps. Have a wonderful day, loves!

Farming With Your Fork

At the beginning of the 2020 global pandemic, I reached out to neighbors, friends, and family to make sure folks where OK – physically and emotionally. The common thread of our conversations was a calling to get serious about gardening but beyond that – it was about living as a self reliant community . Garden related “wishes” we chatted about centered on gaining practical skills and further exploration into actions like putting up a greenhouse for year round growing, starting micro-greens, getting serious about composting, or preserving the harvest. I fueled the conversation by asking about their companion planting plan? How many harvest where they planning on trying for the season? Are they starting seeds in succession to have a continual harvest? What integrated pest management techniques they think they will try? Gulp – I think I got WAY too excited. However, at the core of each conversation was the desire to cultivate self – reliance by growing foods, medicine, and beauty. These chats have motivated me to outline my 5 steps towards turning your garden into a “farm” that becomes your “grocer” – in essence your garden becomes your farm with your fork as your grocer.

Growing up during the 80’s Brooklyn, gardening was the thing older folks from the South did and no one else paid attention to.  One day on the bus I sat next to a sweet elder lady who looked over at my biology textbook about the part of a plant and commented “I never had a book to tell me about plants – we always knew what each part did, how to use it, and which ones to stay away from.  I guess these days you have to learn somehow ‘cause you are no longer connected.  I looked up politely and she continued – “we had huge gardens.  We saved our seeds for the next season, we preserved and canned, we used the throw-away stuff to fertilize the soil, and we cooked and cooked and cooked – mostly everything we needed was in the garden our in our neighbors plot…” She looked off into the distance and smiled.  I asked “you didn’t have a supermarket?” “Baby”, she said,” our garden farm was our grocer! “- “and we hardly got sick, we never went hungry, and Sunday dinners was a fest that lasted for days.”  I smiled not understanding the power of her words.  As she got off the bus she sealed our connection by saying “So much power in putting your hands in healthy dirt.  It’s up to you kids to continue doing these things!”  And these words would have a profound guidance on me and choices I would make years down the road.

During the 90’s Los Angeles I was a college student in the middle of the reaction by the community to the Rodney King verdict.  The town was on fire, people frustrated, and I watched stores burn.   I went back to my dorm and decided to stop my formal college education and seek a more practical and hands on path to reliance and peace on earth one garden plot at a time.  Yes, that conversation on the bus years earlier jumped into my very existence and steered my life path.  I started studying and practicing Permaculture shortly afterwards. Permaculture is a coined phrase for a set of principals and techniques for the harmonious integration of our landscape to benefit YOU and the Earth. “Farming with your fork” is a powerful and simple action. We create a demand or market with each bite for the crops and livestock we want on our tables AND how they are raised.

“Control oil and you control nations. Control food and you control people.”

Henry Kissinger, US political figure

2020 has shown is that we cannot continue to depend on outside forces as the sole provider of food. If its not the changing weather due to cyclic earth changes / grand solar minimum creating crop loss, disruptions in the supply chains, or corporate greed feeding us products based on destructive mono-culture farming techniques – we are at the mercy of factors that are not sustainable. What a sobering reality…

We can take charge by creating a demand by supporting your local farmers and ranchers, creating food buying groups, working together to turn empty spaces into abundance with gardening, and preserving and sharing the harvest. Each step becomes your template for abundance, community and self- care from your loving labor. Gardening is humbling to me because these are no mistakes – only actions you don’t repeat or you need to modify for better outcomes. We create “food security” with passion, imagination, courage, and community. Continue the conversation with friends and neighbors. Work together towards your community food security.

Photo Credits: Kim Mendoza

Dovanna Dean is a lover of dirt, pets, plants, and house music.